February 24, 2021
Trust Cape Foulwind Ranger, Gerald Freeman, is retiring from his role with the Trust, having kept predators at bay there for the past four years.
Appreciation to Gerald Freeman for work at Cape Foulwind
Trust Cape Foulwind Ranger, Gerald Freeman, is retiring from his role with the Trust, having kept predators at bay there for the past four years.Trust Cape Foulwind Ranger, Gerald Freeman, is retiring from his role with the Trust, having kept predators at bay there for the past four years. Several years ago, the Trust had a goal of bringing more blue penguins and more sooty shearwaters to the southern tip of Cape Foulwind in an effort to enable more people to see more wildlife and to spend longer in the Buller area. To encourage or entice both species to nest in the area, the Trust built a solar powered sound system that plays blue penguin calls as they prepare to nest and, later in the year, sooty shearwater calls as they prepare to nest. For a variety of reasons it seems that blue penguins remain at very low numbers in the Tauranga Bay and Cape Foulwind area. Sooty shearwaters are a majestic seabird - flying vast distances and able to dive over 60m for their prey. However they are very vulnerable to predation and generally survive on offshore islands. With trapping at Cape Foulwind, numbers have crept up to around a dozen nests but sadly no chicks have been recorded as fledged at this site. Trapping, managed patiently and religiously by Gerald, is giving them the best chance of survival and breeding and it will continue. The trapping programme at Cape Foulwind extends along the rugged coast there in order to keep numbers of rats and stoats down. Just offshore is tiny Wall Island, home to the largest seabird colony between Cook and Foveaux Straits. The numerous Fairy Prions as well as shearwaters, some penguins and shags on Wall Island have been protected by Gerald's dedication since January 2017. The trapping programme has involved fortnightly trap maintenance between October and April and monthly for the remainder of the year. Gerald has maintained access to the trap line and kept the Trust appraised of the situation with predators there, working closely with DOC to look at best practice and different approaches for the best conservation outcomes. We wish you well Gerald and thank you for all your hard work, fitting regular trips to the Cape around wild weather, a covid lockdown and all manner of other challenges.
Facilitating blue penguin/ kororā tracking projects
West Coast blue penguin, kororā, tracking project - report from the New Zealand Penguin InitiativeWest Coast Blue Penguin Kororā Tracking Project - report from the New Zealand Penguin Initiative (NZPI) October saw the resumption of the blue penguin - kororā tracking project on the West Coast that began in November 2019 and follows earlier efforts by the West Coast Penguin Trust (WCPT) to track blue penguins. The current project, a collaboration between NZPI and WCPT, will provide long-term foraging data of blue penguins -kororā from two colonies in Charleston, Buller District. This at-sea monitoring runs in parallel with the nest monitoring programme to give a more complete picture of the drivers of breeding success while building a general understanding of how the birds use the local marine environment. Two rounds of deployments were completed with GPS dive data being attained for a total of eleven breeding birds – seven individuals in the earlier chick-guard stage and four in the later post-guard stage. Birds were fitted with GPS dive loggers (55 x 25 x 12mm; 20g) at the nest and devices were retrieved in the subsequent nights following considerable surveillance, either at the nest or between the landing site and the nest. The seven chick-guard birds showed similar foraging routes, all focusing in an area to the west-northwest of the two colonies, travelling around 20 km offshore (14.1-23.5 km), covering about 50km per foraging trip (47.7-56.9 km) and diving to around 9 m (mean dive depth for individual birds: 6.1 – 10.7 m). All birds tracked during the chick-guard stage completed single day foraging trips. Of the four post-guard birds tracked, three completed 2-day foraging trips with one staying at sea for three days before returning to the nest. These birds generally foraged in the same area as the birds tracked during chick-guard, to the west-northwest of the two colonies. The exception being one individual that travelled almost 40 km west-southwest, although this appears to be overnight drifting while resting at the surface. Analysis of the dive data is still pending. The body condition of the study birds and their chicks indicated that there was ample prey availability in this foraging area throughout October 2020 and the fledging success rate of 70.4% suggests that conditions have been good throughout this season, a change from the previous season when chicks were dying from starvation. NZPI developed an online dashboard for the WCPT to view and share the foraging information and associated summary statistics (www.penguindb.nz/WCPT/tracking). Kororā tracking protocols and facilitation of nation-wide tracking projects The NZPI is continuing to develop best practice guidelines for kororā tracking. Next year they will support more community groups with tracking projects as they work towards their long-term goal of conducting and facilitating tracking projects covering all regions of New Zealand. Dr Thomas Mattern, Scientific Advisor and leader of the NZPI explains: "The project with WCPT provided a useful lesson for us by further enforcing the notion that successful deployment and retrieval of loggers can require intensive effort and strategy, far beyond that required for nest monitoring. During the work on the West Coast we observed birds departing the colony and going to sea in the middle of the night, which was surprising as kororā are generally thought to depart in the lead up to dawn. We repeatedly observed breeders in the chick-guard stage return to the nest at night and for their partner, who had been guarding chicks, to depart almost immediately. Similarly, we observed breeders in the post-guard stage returning to the nest between 10pm and 3.30am and feeding chicks for 10 minutes before departing again. GPS and dive data showed that these birds would head out to sea and rest on the surface until day break before commencing foraging. "This behaviour has significant implications for the logger deployment and retrieval effort as constant surveillance of each nest is required to intercept the birds. Over the post-guard period, Trust Ranger, Matt Charteris, Richard Seed (NZPI Research & Conservation Coordinator) and Trust Scientist Kerry-Jayne Wilson covered the hours of 9.30 pm to 3.30 am at the nests in order to retrieve the loggers. "This should not deter community groups from undertaking tracking projects as the importance of at-sea monitoring is paramount for effective conservation, but its important to understand the time commitments and intensive effort that is sometimes required to deploy and retrieve loggers."
February 11, 2021
Trust Chair and former Ranger, Reuben Lane, has prepared a nest box plan that we hope will keep penguins more secure and will be easier to transport to potential nest sites.
Blue penguin nest box design
Trust Chair and former Ranger, Reuben Lane, has prepared a nest box plan that we hope will keep penguins more secure and will be easier to transport to potential nest sites.Trust Chair and former Ranger, Reuben Lane, has prepared a nest box plan that we hope will keep penguins more secure and will be easier to transport to potential nest sites. Traditional nest box designs have a tunnel attached to the main nesting box and we have encouraged those building new boxes to extend the length of the tunnel to provide additional protection from wekas. Wekas are known to enter penguin nest boxes and would predate chicks if they could. The new design includes an internal wall to form a tunnel and to provide more of a barrier to any intruders. The plan is illustrated below and can be saved from here (right click and save image). Key messages when building and siting a nest box are:
- Use treated timber and galvanised flat head nails
- Place in secluded and shady location, dug partially into sloping ground ensuring water will not drain into nest site and will drain away from it. At a flat site, pile earth up around box.
- Camouflage with loose vegetation
February 9, 2021
Recently, we were invited to comment when DOC shared the sad story about the deaths of two tawaki, attributed to loose dogs at Jackson Bay/Jackson Head in South Westland. It was an opportunity to focus on the key messages for dogs in relation to penguins on the West Coast.
Key messages for dog owners
Recently, we were invited to comment when DOC shared the sad story about the deaths of two tawaki, attributed to loose dogs at Jackson Bay/Jackson Head in South Westland. It was an opportunity to focus on the key messages for dogs in relation to penguins on the West Coast.Recently, we were invited to comment when DOC shared the sad story about the deaths of two tawaki, attributed to loose dogs at Jackson Bay/Jackson Head in South Westland. It was an opportunity to focus on the key messages for dogs in relation to penguins on the West Coast, particularly when speaking to National Radio. First and foremost is to ensure that dogs are safe and secure at home. Loose dogs are not only at risk of being hit on the roads and causing traffic accidents, they can also scare, threaten or even attack adults, children and other animals. But in coastal areas, they may be roaming through dunes and on beaches where penguins may be nesting, resting, moulting or simply hanging out, perhaps ill. In forest areas, it may be kiwis that are vulnerable. In some places, wildlife is so precious and vulnerable that dogs are absolutely prohibited. 1. Ensure dogs cannot roam from home. The beach is a wonderful place for dogs to run and have fun, but penguins could be found at any time at any beach and in any coastal vegetation. The same applies for forests and kiwis. 2. Ideally dogs will be on leads throughout coastal areas and always on a lead (a) going through coastal vegetation to reach the beach and (b) after dark. Blue penguins or kororā will generally come ashore after dark and leave before dawn - if they are seen at the beach during daylight hours, there is likely to be something wrong and they will be at great risk from dogs. Fiordland crested penguins or tawaki often come ashore in the afternoon and are more likely to be seen at the beach in their nesting areas, mainly in South Westland (and Fiordland and Stewart Island). Again, these handsome penguins could be found anywhere along the West Coast and if they are largely still, they too may need some help. These and in fact all coastal wildlife, including seals, sealions, dotterels and other shorebirds are at risk from dogs. 3. If not on a lead, and only during daylight hours and in the tidal part of the beach, dogs must be under effective control - i.e. respond as required. Effective control means that the dog will respond as required, whether stopping immediately or coming when called, so not too far away, within voice or whistle control and well trained. There was a tragic story of a dog attacking a young seal - despite the owner calling and calling and then trying to pull the dog off, the dog would not let go and the seal had to be put down. Again, the same applies in forests. Dog owner or not, everyone can play a role in informing dog owners about wildlife at the beach. Wildlife, whether seals or dotterels, are well camouflaged at the beach and it is easy to approach too closely or even step on nests. If you see any wildlife as you walk on the beach and then meet a dog and owner, just let them know, both to protect the wildlife and potentially to protect the dog. 4. Warn dog owners if you see vulnerable wildlife at the beach. If you see sick or injured wildlife, and that includes penguins just hanging out, which they are only likely to do if they are unable to get to safety, please call the 0800 DOC HOTline (0800 362 468). DOC will be able to pass on the details to the nearest ranger and sometimes the penguin trust. Some penguins can be rescued and assessed for possible rehabilitation and release. 5. Call the 0800 DOCHOT line if you see sick or injured wildlife. Finally, there are some sites that are just too precious for dogs to be in at all, on or off a lead. Wildlife Refuges are specially protected for very rare wildlife and/or breeding colonies, for example that at Jackson Head where tawaki breed. 6. Never allow your dog to enter a Wildlife Refuge or other dog excluded area. If you see a loose dog in an area where dogs are prohibited, call the 0800 DOCHOT emergency line as soon as possible.
February 3, 2021
A rare tawaki or Fiordland crested penguin is thought to have been killed by a dog at a Haast wildlife refuge and DOC is asking pet owners to ensure their animals are under control and kept out of prohibited areas.
Dogs on holiday causing penguin nightmare
A rare tawaki or Fiordland crested penguin is thought to have been killed by a dog at a Haast wildlife refuge and DOC is asking pet owners to ensure their animals are under control and kept out of prohibited areas.A rare tawaki or Fiordland crested penguin is thought to have been killed by a dog at a Haast wildlife refuge and DOC is asking pet owners to ensure their animals are under control and kept out of prohibited areas. A dog was seen running loose in the Okahu/Jackson Bay Wildlife Refuge and a short time later, clumps of tawaki feathers were found in the coastal forest beside the Wharekai Te Kou walking track. A tawaki penguin on another Haast beach has also been handed in by a member of the public who found it injured on the beach, with evidence of being attacked by a dog. The penguin sadly had to be put down. A wildlife refuge is strictly off limits to all but approved conservation dogs. Wildlife refuges contain either breeding colonies of animals or particularly rare animals, which suffer when dogs enter the area. Biodiversity Ranger Inge Bolt says people are ignoring the signage at the Wharekai Te Kou track which is a wildlife refuge where dogs are strictly prohibited. Penguins and other ground dwelling native birds don’t naturally co-exist with dogs, and they can’t escape easily – it takes just a second for a dog to cause a fatal injury to a penguin. “Responsible dog owners need to read the signs and know where their dog is allowed - particularly in sensitive wildlife areas. In some areas dogs are allowed, but only on a lead. “People are also ignoring the council signage in the settlement of Jackson Bay requiring dogs to be on a lead. Both of these restrictions are in place to protect the penguins and seabirds that live in this area. West Coast Penguin Trust Manager, Inger Perkins agrees. “The Trust has worked hard to ensure consistent messages are presented across the West Coast at beach access points. It is a simple message – keep dogs on leads in coastal vegetation and after dark at the beach. At other times, keep the dog under very close control. Never take them into areas where they are prohibited. We have been working for several years to understand and better manage threats to tawaki. Dogs should not be one of the threats. These penguin deaths were entirely avoidable.” Haast receives a lot of visitors from the South Island and further afield. Many stay in Air Bnb’s, campgrounds, motels or baches and are here for holidays and weekends. Some people bring their dogs, but a few people are ignoring the rules, and their dogs can have a devastating impact. Maps detailing areas of dog access and prohibition are available from DOC – either on the website or at visitor centres. If people are unsure, they should seek advice. Dog permits can be obtained from DOC for some areas, depending on the wildlife of that area. Inger Perkins was interviewed by RNZ's The Panel - listen here.
Rescued tawaki returned to the sea
An injured tawaki was reported to DOC, who picked it up and took it to the local West Coast vets in Hokitika.An injured tawaki was reported to DOC, who picked it up and took it to the local West Coast vets in Hokitika. The penguin needed stitches for a wound to the abdomen and then he or she, was taken to rehabilitator, Tracy Johnston-Coates for care until well enough for release. The penguin was named Falcon following the alphabet for new residents, and spent three weeks regaining strength and getting ready for release, with great help from New World Hokitika's fresh fish folk and Westfleet in Greymouth who kindly provided fish for Falcon. After three weeks, the stitches were dissolving, the wound was healed and Falcon was keen to return to the ocean, so keen in fact that she pushed the mesh away from the frame of the enclosure, which had to be reinforced! After a quick visit to the vet when the wound was checked and an identification chip inserted, Falcon was taken to the beach for release. She seemed to acknowledge her human helpers before heading away.
November 30, 2020
Penguin ranger, Matt Charteris, reports on the success so far for our blue penguins and Fiordland crested penguins.
Ranger Matt reports on the season so far for West Coast Kororā and Tawaki
Penguin ranger, Matt Charteris, reports on the success so far for our blue penguins and Fiordland crested penguins.End of spring update from the coastline Blue Penguin Breeding: Monitoring from Punaikaiki to Cape Foulwind is showing a good breeding season. Numbers of breeding pairs is similar to last year, with the exception of 2 pairs re-establishing at our Punakaiki monitored site, where the colony appeared to have been lost. Two chick nests are dominant with one chick nests representing 20% of breeding attempts. We are entering the final period of the breeding season so hoping Santa keeps delivering the moana kai to complete fledging, for new fishers and feed up the adults before they moult. Foraging: In early September, with the help of NZ Penguin Initiative's Richard, Thomas and Hanna, 7 GPS loggers were deployed on blue penguins at Nile, Knoll and Rahui colonies. Each datalogger recorded a single foraging trip of a chick-feeding adult. A further 4 deployments were made at Rahui on post-guard chick-feeding adults in mid-October. Further analysis of 2020 dive data and travel data and comparison with previous seasons data will follow. Our data set of breeding season foraging behaviour is growing and we hope to work with others in order to analyse in relation to marine conditions. Tawaki Predator Monitoring: The predator monitoring of three tawaki colonies has finished for the season. Catherine Stewart has performed another sterling effort at Gorge River (where there is no predator management), as have Andre de Graaf at Jackson Head (low predator management through trapping) and Sarah Kivi at Knights Point (1080 management 2019). at Gorge River. Preliminary results show all sites had successful breeding seasons. Stoats were detected at Jackson Head and Knights Point, with the former colony appearing to having had a sub-colony impacted by stoat predation/disturbance at the egg and early chick stage. Nest footage has been collated and is awaiting analysis.
Mission: Find tawaki in Port Pegasus
Tawaki Ranger, Robin Long, went searching for Fiordland crested penguins a couple of months ago and reports on her adventure.Tawaki Ranger, Robin Long, went searching for Fiordland crested penguins a couple of months ago and reports on her adventure. Our plan was to survey for Fiordland crested penguins or tawaki along a remote stretch of the Stewart Island coast by kayak. As for last year, I was assisted by Simon Litchwark and we were very fortunate to hitch a ride down to Port Pegasus on August 28th with Aurora Charters, and back again on September 8th. While we were down there we got around in a double sit on top kayak kindly lent to us by a friend of Simon, Phil Bradfield. Two of the days were too windy to go out paddling but aside from that we managed to make things work in spite of it being quite wet and windy and not always very pleasant. In total we paddled 165km over the eight days and managed to cover most of the Port, which I didn't think we'd manage given how windy it was when first got there. We found a total of 54 nests. Almost all of these were in caves along the sea cliffs, much like we found along the northern coast of Stewart Island last year. We found none in the inner, more sheltered, parts of the port but as we got closer to the open sea we found them in most of the occupiable caves. Unfortunately we were limited by the swell making it increasingly difficult to land and search the caves as we went further out, but we were able to check the backs of Noble and Anchorage Islands on one especially calm day. The 54 nests were distributed as follows: 27 on Noble Island; 2 on Anchorage Island; 5 on Pearl Island (probably more but the sea was too rough for us to search the outer coast); 2 on the headland north of North Pegasus Hunters Hut; 14 on the mainland south of South Passage; 4 in Small Craft Retreat. None in any of the inner coastline which is why we didn't prioritize the time to search Sylvan Cove but focused on the outer parts instead. The results of this survey support our hypothesis from last year that there are a significant number of tawaki breeding around Stewart Island, but their preference for rough coastlines is going to make most of the population impossible to survey. Explorer, Tara Mulvaney, kayaked around Stewart Island a couple of years ago and said she saw probably several hundred scattered the whole way around the coast. We also saw a bunch of Yellow-eyed Penguin trails in the more sheltered areas, got chased by sea lions in Small Craft Retreat and met a curious southern right whale at the base of Bald Cone who swam in circles and back and forth under our kayak for at least half an hour! As you can read, Robin volunteers a lot of her time and goes to great efforts to help learn more about and protect these beautiful birds, the tawaki. If you feel you would like to donate some funds to help with future surveys and projects, please do get in touch with us. Many thanks.
November 19, 2020
The West Coast Penguin Trust is hailing the benefits of exhaustive environmental and penguin management planning after a nocturnal visitor to an ocean outfall drilling site recently was successfully returned to the ocean.
Penguin rescue shows penguin plan is working
The West Coast Penguin Trust is hailing the benefits of exhaustive environmental and penguin management planning after a nocturnal visitor to an ocean outfall drilling site recently was successfully returned to the ocean.The West Coast Penguin Trust is hailing the benefits of exhaustive environmental and penguin management planning after a nocturnal visitor to an ocean outfall drilling site recently was successfully returned to the ocean. Westland Dairy Company took the initiative several years ago when the idea of a pipeline to take treated waste out to sea rather than into the Hokitika River started taking shape. The pipeline was proposed to go through a small area of coastal scrub on the northern edge of Hokitika, but that small area was home to dozens of blue penguins. As pipeline plans progressed, so did the preparation to work in a coastal area where penguins would be present. The West Coast Penguin Trust provided details for a comprehensive blue penguin management plan that was incorporated into contract documents for the tender process. McConnell Dowell won the tender to install the pipeline and have embraced the idea of working in a penguin zone, welcoming the inductions for contract teams by Trust Manager, Inger Perkins, and implementing the many requirements of the penguin management plan. They have borrowed a taxidermied blue penguin - kindly loaned by DOC - so that they are all aware of what they are protecting and looking out for. So when the night crew saw a penguin on the site, they alerted the site manager, who got hold of the Trust. Footprints were seen but it wasn't clear where the penguin had hidden itself until later in the day. McConnell Dowell staff were ingenious, helpful and ultimately delighted to help the penguin gently out of its hiding place under a container housing pumping machinery. With guidance from Ms Perkins, they released the penguin to the beach and watched as the penguin looked around, got its bearings, and then headed out to sea - a happy ending for everyone. The key lesson was that the preparation paid off. The Trust appeals to all those who may be working in coastal areas to think penguins. They could be nesting anywhere - under trees, shrubs, houses, sheds, debris. Check with the Trust before disturbing any coastal area, whether digging into or moving material so that no penguins are harmed. The story has been shared through local newspapers and on Stuff here: https://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/123433482/little-blue-penguin-rescued-from-ocean-drilling-site-near-hokitika
October 30, 2020
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency have recognised the issue of streetlights as a threat to Westland petrels and have agreed to trial the switching off of Punakaiki street lights on SH6 for the most critical period, 8th November to 8th January.
Punakaiki street lights – drop in session Tuesday 4th November
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency have recognised the issue of streetlights as a threat to Westland petrels and have agreed to trial the switching off of Punakaiki street lights on SH6 for the most critical period, 8th November to 8th January.